Saturday 9 November 2013

MARVELous developments

It's going pretty well for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which may soon need to be renamed the Marvel Cinematic and Televisual Universe. Thor: The Dark World was excellent, a good fun film, and much needed after the more introspective Iron Man 3. Agents of SHIELD is definitely improving. It's not quite must-see TV yet, and the dialogue is still surprisingly clunky for a Mutant Enemy project, but there's definite potential there. Following the latest episode, it looks like we might finally be getting somewhere with some genuine character development for the team. Now we just need to find out what's actually up with Coulson, and spend less time listening to him reminding people that he died.

In the cinema, we have Captain America: The Winter Soldier to look forward to next year, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy, which is sounding very interesting. Well, weird. But that's good, we like weird. Then it can't be too long before Avengers: Age of Ultron, with the very interesting casting of James Spader as the eponymous android villain. That'll be Marvel Phase Two done; Phase Three is set to kick off with Ant-Man, with further adventures likely to include Doctor Strange and further sequels for Cap and Thor. There's also talk of a Peggy Carter series.

Perhaps most intriguing is this week's announcement that Marvel are to produce no fewer than five projects for Amazon Netflix. This is rather exciting, considering that Netflix's original projects have so far shown more bravery in their subject matter than most US network shows (I'm discounting HBO here, obviously). We're set to see thirteen episode series (possibly more eps, if they do well, I guess) featuring Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Daredevil, followed by a Defenders miniseries. These are some interesting choices, and should see some exploration of the murkier side of the Marvel universe.

I was actually quite pleased with the 2003 Daredevil film starring Ben Affleck (the less said about the Elektra spin-off, the better). A series seems like a much better fit, however, allowing storylines to play out over a longer period and permitting more exploration of Matt Murdock's career as a lawyer. I could really see it working.

I know less about Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist, but they are all linked characters: Cage and Jones become romantically involved, and Cage forms Heroes for Hire with Iron Fist. The choice of all three characters to head their own series is intriguing, but it's likely - virtually certain, really - we'll see some crossover between them.

The Defenders are the cut-price Avengers, to be fair, but this makes perfect sense as a project for TV. A lower budget version of the sort of superhero team shenanigans we saw in The Avengers could work very well, so long as it's not too low-budget. The Defenders were even less united than the Avengers, though, and tended to battle supernatural, rather than science-fictional, threats. There have been numerous versions of the Defenders team; in fact, pretty much every hero in the Marvel universe has been part of the Avengers, the Defenders or both at some stage. Still, the core group consisted of the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer and the Sub-Mariner.

Whether we'll see these characters in the Defenders miniseries remains to be seen; I'd be surprised if at least some of the new Netflix series characters don't make the cut. However, the Hulk seems like a plausible choice. So long as they use Mark Ruffalo, this is something I can get behind (and would make up, somewhat, for the stalling of Guillermo del Toro's Hulk-centred TV series). Doctor Strange could potentially be introduced in the miniseries then graduate to cinema. There are a lot of possibilities.

We'll have to wait till at least 2015 to find out though.

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